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'Cloud Atlas' not worth the rental fee

May 23, 2013 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com An old fashioned and well-done suspense film and a big budget disaster are in this movie review column.
There is a genre of horror film that places innocent people in a building or small town where evil is afoot and they don't understand that they are the only ones who aren't part of a larger ominous plan. "Rosemary's Baby" is a classic example of this approach to a horror film and, while "Penumbra" lacks some of that film's suspense, it is largely successful in slowly but surely coming to an evil boil. That's the nature of these kinds of films. Their narrative is designed to build deliberately to a series of small shocks before the real kicker takes place. Another requirement is that protagonists are innocents and outsiders. Marga may be an outsider, but she is not innocent. Played with a consistent fury by Cristina Brondo, Marga works with a multinational corporation and is currently living in Argentina. A Spaniard, she makes no bones about despising her situation as she hates the country and its people. She is linked to Argentina, though, because she and her sister co-own an apartment they inherited. Marga is supposedly meeting with a potential renter and is about to give up when she decides to check to see if he is waiting inside the building for her. Who she discovers laying before the door of the apartment is Jorge (Berta Muniz). He quickly gets up and introduces himself as an agent for the renter, a man who wants sign the papers immediately and will offer Marga four times the going rental rate. Blinded by greed, she quickly forgets her doubts about Jorge — why was he on the floor? — and agrees to wait for the renter, using a series of cell phone calls to her co-workers and boss to make the time, even though she has a client waiting for her at the office. Marga then suffers a series of mishaps, which shakes her but doesn't deter her from her goals. When she finally figures out that Jorge and his growing number of associates are not who they say they are, she is hopelessly drawn into their plot. This film was shot in Argentina and was co-written and co-directed by Spanish filmmakers Adrian Garcia Bogliano and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano, who clearly understand the conventions of the type of film they are making and enjoy twisting them a bit. Their biggest shift is making their heroine so genuinely unlikable, a move that seemed to work for me most of the time. They also resisted the use of gore until the conclusion of the film, which meant it had even more impact. For horror fans, this film is worth finding.
Cloud Atlas
I believe I wrote briefly about this three-hour big budget science fiction film before briefly, but now that is on home video — and I'm sure at a Red Box near you — I have to once again urge you to save the rental fee and opt for something else — almost anything else. Seldom have I seen a film that is so misguided, so hugely pretentious, so glacier-like in pacing and so wasteful of a huge budget and Academy Award winning actors. Based on the novel of the same name the premise of the film is simple: we are all linked to one another in a cosmic time traveling version of "Six Degree of Kevin Bacon." Tom Hanks and Halle Berry who, like every other actor, play multiple roles head the cast. Part of the film's pretense is to put actors under heavy makeup so there is a kind of guessing game for the audience that some people might find offensive such as Hugo weaving playing an Asian character. At the core of this failure is any sort of clarity about why we are seeing the stories that we are seeing and what their interconnections mean. So what if they are linked somehow if the audience doesn't know the significance of the connection? Directed by Tom Tyker, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, there is plenty of talent behind the camera as there is before the camera but all of it is wasted. I'm too old to have wasted three hours of my life. Save yourself.

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